Claire Askew’s electrifying second collection is an investigation of power: the power of oppressive systems and their hold over those within them; the power of resilience; the power of the human heart. It licks flame across the imagination, and rewrites narratives of human desire. It is a collection for anyone who has ever run through their life ‘backwards/ in the dark,/ with no map’ – these bright poems illuminate the way.
How to burn a woman throngs with witches, outsiders, and women who do not fit the ordinary moulds of the world. It is a collection which traces historic atrocities, and celebrates the lives of those accused of witchcraft with empathy, tenderness and rage. It lifts a mirror up to contemporary systems of oppression and, in language that is both vivid and accessible, asks hard questions of our current world.
These poems also delve deep into love in all its forms: from infatuations to the bitter ending of relationships. They ask what it is we want, how we might go about getting it, and what its cost might be.
How to burn a woman sweeps the world up in its arms and presents it: a rough bonfire of London buses, Salem streets, Edinburgh closes. Askew’s astute, incisive language lifts from every page, throwing sparks.
‘Bloodaxe has just announced the exciting second collection from Dr Claire Askew, How to burn a woman. Through poems of witches and outsiders, of women who lived on the fringes of ordinary, Askew dives into an exploration of love with her incisive language, poetic tenderness and electric rage.’ – Beth Cochrane, The Skinny (Scottish Poetry Picks for October 2021)
‘Since her first poetry collection This changes things was published in 2016, Askew has been busy establishing herself as a brilliant crime writer… and now returns to poetry with this searing collection of spells, power and love.’ – The Bookseller [on Claire Askew’s forthcoming second collection How to burn a woman]
‘In this book of spells, Askew stirs together smart, modern poems about whisky, heartbreak and male-female relationships with a darker sequence about our “foremothers” who were persecuted as witches. How to burn a woman is full of hard-won wisdom and beauty. The vibe is Kim Addonizio joins a coven.’ – Clare Pollard
‘Claire Askew doesn’t mince words: she revels in them, pretty or dirty, and hammers them into strange and kenspeckle amulets, talismans against loss, death, isolation…. Looking into the future with ‘no innocence’, haunted by the past, the allusive, mysterious work at the core of this collection will take Claire Askew far.’ – Pippa Little, The Lake, on This changes things
'This changes things is, admirably, a feminist collection - deeply concerned with women's lives, in all their strength and vulnerability. But Askew has a capacious eye; in the slow-burning second half of the book... some strong poems documenting travel... suggest a poet whose next steps are attractively difficult to predict... Askew is the real thing, and everyone should buy this debut.' - Kathryn Gray, Magma on This changes things
‘…an excellent debut from a promising new voice in Scottish poetry.’ – Leaf Arbuthnot, Times Literary Supplement, on This changes things